IPA – American: Lumberyard Flagstaff IPA

This week’s mid-week beer is one I got in America during my visit to Lumberyard Brewery in Arizona. I really enjoyed my visit to the brewery and decided to grab their 4 pack can sampler as I left. This is the last one I had left, as I wanted to include it on here.

Let’s start with Lumberyard‘s description of the beer:

Silver Medal Winner at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival. Bronze Medal Winner at the 2010 World Beer Cup. This ale is medium bodied with higher bitterness. The blend of English and American hops make this copper colored ale especially pleasing for pale ale lovers.

A few awards, which are always nice to mention when trying to get people to try your beer. I also like how they don’t hide the fact they’ve mixed British and American hops, which sometimes people don’t like. The recipe however, is pretty secret and I had to guess the entire thing! More on that shortly. I like how they don’t say “IPA Lovers” or “Hop Heads” and concentrate on the fact that it’s an India Pale Ale!

Right, the recipe in this one. It’s shrouded in secrecy it seems! I’ve had to guess on flavour alone. So, seeing as there’s a blend of English and American hops I’m going to go for Fuggles, Cluster, Challenger, Centennial and Cascade. As for the Malts, I’m going to go for 2-Row, Caramel Malt and Carapils. I’m not sure what type of Yeast Lumberyard ferment with, but it’s quite different from the usual American yeasts that are clean. I have a feeling it’s an English Ale Yeast.

When you pour this beer, it’s a Amber/Copper colour and has a Medium white head. It dissipates slowly leaving a thin white ring around the edge of the glass as you drink. On the nose there’s some Citrus, Pine and Floral Aromas with no Malts detectable. There’s a touch of Tropical Fruit in the background but it’s very mellow. When you taste this beer, you get an initial hit of Spicy Hops and Pine, then comes the wave of Citrus and Floral notes followed by a touch of Cracker from the Malts used in the brew. It’s quite a Mellow IPA, but it makes a change from a lot of the IPA’s at the moment which can be refreshing. The beer is quite full bodied for the style, however and ends Medium-Dry with Medium to Low carbonation.

Unfortunately you can’t get Lumberyard IPA in the UK. But, if Americans are interested in trying this brew as it is quite close to an English IPA then give it a go! If anyone is visiting Arizona, I 100% recommend a visit to Lumberyard as it’s a great brewery with some fantastic beer and food.

Sour – English: The Kernel London Sour

This week’s beer is from The Kernel Brewery in London, one of London’s up and coming breweries. I’ve been meaning to review a beer from The Kernel in a long time, as whenever I turn up with a bottle people always comment on how good the branding is. The Beer’s good too, so I thought I’d turn my attention onto whats in the bottle.

The Commercial Description is as follows:

The Kernel Brewery, London. London Sour. Keg and Bottle.

I don’t think there’s anything really to write about that, I like it though. It sort of says “Hi, We’re the Kernel, we’re from London and this Beers gonna be Sour” and that’s it. The rest is up to you. Maybe one day they’ll add a short description, maybe they won’t. It doesn’t really matter and people love Kernel beers it seems!

So, after that brief Analysis let’s get on to the recipe for this one! It’s been hard to figure out what’s in this one but I’ve given it a good go! I think the Malt base is a Sour mash of Wheat and Pilsner malt which is left the Sour for that Lactobaccillus and other Wild Yeasts and Bacteria to do it’s magic. After this, it’s added to a bill of Wheat, Pilsner and a touch of CaraHell malts. As for the Hops, judging by the flavour of this one I think Citra and Sorachi Ace have been used. It is fermented with a Clean Yeast after, although it is already infected with Lactobaccillus, a yeast notorious for stripping nearly all the Sugars out of Wort and creating a very Sour, Tart tasting brew.

When you pour this beer, it’s Yellow like a cheap Lager with a very fizzy white head which dissipates very quickly leaving no trace of a head being there. Bubbles rise from the bottom of the glass at a fast rate, almost causing a Champagne effect. On the nose there’s a hit of Wheat and Sour Notes followed by Lemon, Gooseberry and a touch of Passion Fruit too. It’s not as tart on the Palate as expected for a Sour, but there’s definitely some tart Gooseberry and Passionfruit with some nice Lemony Citrus and Wheat notes. There’s also a Bready yeast tone to this one, almost like Bakers Yeast. I feel as though it carries the Tart Fruit flavours well throughout the brew. It’s well carbonated with and Medium-Dry on the finish.

Unfortunately, London Sour seems to be Out of Stock online at the moment. Probably because of the Sun we’ve been having. You can pick it up at Sourced Market in St. Pancras station, or if you’re willing to wait you can grab it online at the following:

Eebria

BeerMerchants

BeerHawk

EST. CALORIES: 114   ABV: 3.8%

IPA – American: Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA

This week’s beer is one of Sierra Nevada’s latest offerings – Hop Hunter IPA. I was lucky enough to try this beer whilst in California, and knew I had to feature it on here. Hop Hunter is apprently coming to the UK soon, and I’m personally looking forward to it a lot.

Let’s start with Sierra Nevada’s Description of the brew:

Hop Hunter IPA harnesses the complex flavors of just-picked hops through an all-new method of steam distilling wet hops before they even leave the fields. This revolutionary technique captures and intensifies the natural flavors, creating a unique and intensely aromatic beer. Our custom process gathers pure hop oil which, when combined with traditional whole-cone hops in the brew kettle, makes for an incredible IPA experience.

I like how this description focuses on the process, as far as I know another brewery haven’t attempted this feat yet. The hops are grown in Sierra Nevada’s farms, which is a nice touch. I think the description really understates the process utilised to get the Oil out of the Hops and distilled. The brewery use a piece of machinery previously used to extract oil from Mint leaves, the Hops are put into huge trailers and the machine steams them, collecting the vapour, cools it and distills it. The process captures the pure Hop Oil. Five Thousand Pounds of Hops go into just 100 litres of Hop oil. Impressive!

So, with that lets get onto which Hops are used. In the kettle we have Bravo, Cascade, Crystal and Simcoe. The Hops used to make the Hop Oil are Cascade, Centennial and CTZ. The Malts and Fermentables in this brew are interesting, I haven’t seen Flaked Oats used in an IPA in a while but they are in this one as well as 2-Row and Caramel Malts. This is then fermented with Sierra Nevada’s house Ale yeast.

When you pour this beer, the first thing you notice is the Golden colour of the brew and the excellent Clarity it has in the glass. A nice Medium White head forms and sticks around for most of the time you drink this one. The lacing drips down the sides of the glass whilst you drink and does not stick. The nose of this beer is incredible, Floral notes combined with big juicy Citrus and Tropical notes with Pine lingering in the background. On the Palate, you get an initial hit of bitter Pine coupled with nice Bready malts, there’s also some big Citrus notes in there. The Malt backbone carries this IPA well throughout, but the Hop notes are definitely not understated. Seeing as there is Flaked Oats in this one, the mouthfeel is quite light for an IPA. It finishes Crisp, Bitter and Dry.

I can’t wait until this one is available in the UK. Until then, ask your American friends to send as many to you as possible!

EST. CALORIES: 186   ABV: 6.2%

Fruit IPA – American: Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin

This week’s beer is the legendary Grapefruit Sculpin, and although you can’t buy it in the UK it’s something I had to include on this blog. I’ve always wanted to try this beer and luckily got my fair share in California. Ballast Point is located in San Diego, they brew the legendary Sculpin IPA and decided one day they’d add Grapefruit to it to complement the already Citrusy flavours of the brew.

Let’s start with Ballast Point‘s description:

Our award-winning IPA, with a citrus twist.
Our Grapefruit Sculpin is the latest take on our signature IPA. Some may say there are few ways to improve Sculpin’s unique flavor, but the tart freshness of grapefruit perfectly complements our IPA’s citrusy hop character. Grapefruit’s a winter fruit, but this easy-drinking ale tastes like summer.

A brief description, but I guess if you’ve heard of Sculpin IPA it needs no introduction and Ballast Point have confidently capitalised on that fact. However, I didn’t know that Grapefruit was a Winter fruit. I guess you learn something new every day! No indication on flavour, which is nice but “Grapefruit” is a big hint anyway!

It was hard to determine and research the recipe for this one, but eventually I managed it. The hops in this brew are Amarillo, Warrior, Magnum, US Hallertau, Columbus, Crystal, Centennial and Simcoe. Quite an impressive Hop bill! It’s Dry-Hopped with Amarillo. The malts are 2-Row, Caramel, Carapils, Cara and Acidulated Malt. The Grapefruit Zest is added during the boil and then during Secondary fermentation to really get those Grapefruit flavours in there!

When you pour this beer, it’s Golden with a Medium White head, it eventually dissipates leaving very sticky dotty lacing and a thin White Head that lasts throughout. On the nose, there’s tonnes of Grapefruit, Orange Rind, Citrus and a little bit of Pine in the background. The Grapefruit really has taken hold of the Aroma on this one! When you taste this one, you’re immediately hit again by lots of Grapefruit notes, Citrus, Blood Orange and a touch of Pine. However, at the back of your Palate that impressive Malt Bill provides a nice Sweet, Caramel like backbone which is very welcoming. This is quite a complex IPA, but also so brash with the Hops and Grapefruit at the same time. It’s like an onslaught on your Palate. For an IPA the body is quite light with medium Carbonation. It finishes Medium-Dry. I can see why Ballast Point brew this one – it’s absolutely perfect for San Diego weather and Summer!

Unfortunately, this is another one you can’t get in the UK but if you can get your hands on it I really recommend. I’ll be back next Friday with something a little more available in the UK!

UPDATE: Bier Deluxe sells Grapefruit Sculpin and ships to the UK! Although I’m not sure of the freshness, click here for the page.

EST. CALORIES: 210   ABV: 7%

IPA – American: Bells Two Hearted Ale

This Mid-Week beer is one I enjoyed very much in America. The infamous Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. A very popular beer amongst the online beer community and I had to see what all the fuss was about! Also the fact that this beer comes from a place called Kalamazzoo appeals to me in a strange way. Anyway, back to beer!

Let’s start with Bell’s description of this brew:

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is defined by its intense hop aroma and malt balance. Hopped exclusively with the Centennial hop varietal from the Pacific Northwest, massive additions in the kettle and again in the fermenter lend their characteristic grapefruit and pine resin aromas. A significant malt body balances this hop presence; together with the signature fruity aromas of Bell’s house yeast, this leads to a remarkably drinkable American-style India Pale Ale.

I like this description, very confident, lets you know a little about the recipe and it’s to the point. It also gives you a hint on flavour but doesn’t tell you how it should taste which is always good. I like how they’ve stuck to one Hop for this one, a bold statement for one of your flagship beers and something I respect. With so many good breweries in Michigan though, Bells were set to get noticed for brewing some great beers!

As you know already, this beer is hopped exclusively with Centennial. Luckily, I dove a little deeper and found out the method of hopping, and the malts! During the boil, after 1 minute with Leaf Hops, after 5 Pellet Hops, 20 Pellet Hops and 60 Pellet Hops. After this it’s Dry-Hopped for 7 Days with Leaf Hops. The Malts in this beer are 2-Row, Vienna, Caramel and Carapils. After this it’s Fermented with a fruity yeast, but I wouldn’t say use a Belgian Style one.

Now, on to the drinking! When you pour this beer, it pours Golden with a nice Medium White head with great retention. I also noticed the Lacing in this brew is crazy, big foam sticking to the sides of the glass. On the nose, lots of Grapefruit and Pine Needles with a Bready Malt smell in the background. What’s nice is often the Malt aromas don’t come though but in this beer they do. On the Palate, first you get a big rich Malt kick with Caramel, Bread and Biscuit. Following on from this, the hops come into play with an aggressive Pine and Grapefruit bite. It’s so well balanced, and even whilst it warms the Hops don’t come and really kick you in the face due to them having a solid Malt backbone. The beer is Medium bodied and finishes slightly dry. This one definitely lives up to expectation.

Unfortunately Two Hearted Ale is not distributed in the UK, but if you know someone in America or you’re visiting I really recommend this one!

EST. CALORIES: 210   ABV: 7%

Porter – Anspach and Hobday Table Porter

This week I’m reviewing a great mash up of a Table Beer (like a Table wine – Low ABV) and a London Porter from Anspach and Hobday – a relatively new brewery in Bermondsey. I tried their beers at the Winter Brew Fest and thought they were amazing. It’s nice to see them better distributed in London now!

Let’s start with Anspach and Hobday‘s description of the brew:

Best described as like an Iced Coffee (no coffee beans used), this interesting beer is a nod to the Table Beers of old London when water was more dangerous than beer. A David of the beer world, The Table Porter (2.8%) packs lots of flavour for its ABV and it also pours over vanilla ice-cream to create a great flow.

I like the description of this one, it gives you a hint of what it’s going to be like and gives you a little history behind it. I’ve never tried it over Vanilla Ice-Cream, but that might be something I’ll have to try another time. A porter with Ben and Jerry’s?! Tempting seeing as this brew is only 84 Calories… so hey! It doesn’t matter about the Ben and Jerry’s, right?!

The key to the Low-ABV in this one is to reduce the amount of 2-Row and Pale Malt but keep the specialty Malts at the same level as a normal brew. I think the specialty Malts in this one are Chocolate, Roasted Barley, Black Patent and Caramel 120. As for the hops, I got a little Citrusy tone from this one when I opened the bottle, so I’d say a subtle addition of Amarillo or Cascade could do the trick nicely!

The beer says pour carefully on the side, and I swear I did! It pours Black with an impressive Tan coloured head! It takes a good while to go down, I’ve had this experience with Table Beer before and I think it’s because of the lower ABV not annihilating as many proteins and therefore getting an impressive head. On the nose some faint Citrus, Cocoa Chocolate and Coffee. Smells like a decent, heavy Porter! I think the taste of this one is the most impressive, bundles of Roasted Malts, Coffee, Caramel with that slightly fruity Citrus kick at the end blending into some Dark Fruits. It tastes exactly like a 7.4% Porter, but you can drink it all night! The body isn’t really affected too badly for a porter, either with Medium carbonation. It finishes slightly dry. I really recommend this brew, all year round! It’s a great change from a session IPA and it’s a very tasty brew indeed.

You can Buy The Table Porter Online in the UK at:

Craved

Beer Merchants

Eebria

EST. CALORIES: 84   ABV: 2.8%

IPA – English: Hawkeshead IPA

This weeks Beer is brewed in Cumbria, more notably the Lake District. Hawkshead are an independent brewery in the Lake District and today I’m writing about their great IPA. I first discovered this beer on a trip to Keswick, which is a fantastic place that I recommend. The beer market is actually pretty booming in Cumbria, with a lot of traditional and craft breweries making amazing beer.

Let’s start with Hawkshead‘s description of the brew:

A modern IPA, amber in colour, with huge, complex hop flavours from a blend of American and New Zealand hops, including Cascade, Columbus and Motueka, and balanced by sweet malt. India Pale Ale is a classic British beer style, traditionally brewed strong and well-hopped to survive the voyage to India. This IPA takes well-hopped to a new level by using some of the finest, most flavoursome New World hops now available.

This description gives a lot away about the Hops, which I really like as it appeals to the Beer Geek in me but if someone was picking this up as their first beer they wouldn’t know what to expect. What an interesting Hop concoction though! It made me really look forward to this beer when I read it. After this, the usual India Pale Ale story that we all know. The IPA’s that passed through the sea to India were much different though, but that’s a conversation for another time!

As the Hops have been revealed in the description, let’s start with the Malt! I think the Malts in this beer are Crisp Maris Otter, Caramel Malt, 2-Row Carapils and a touch of Biscuit Malt. A very English IPA base, but the Hop bill makes you think differently – Cascade, Columbus and Motueka, what a fruity mix!

This beer pours an Orange/Amber colour with a thin white head which sticks around for most of the time drinking, it leaves some nice dotty, sticky lacing on the glass which is very welcome. On the nose, wow! Those Hops really come out, lashings of Citrus, Tropical Fruit and Orange Peel, it’s like a New Zealand summer in a glass. The palate brings out a nice, sweet Malt backbone with a touch of biscuity, bready flavours that carry through the entire time. On top of this you get the choice of Hops working their magic, lots of Tropical Fruit and Citrus to start, a touch of Pine and then on the finish you get a delicious Summer Fruit flavour lingering in the back of your tongue. The beer is well-bodied and has medium carbonation. It finishes Medium-Sweet. I really recommend this beer as the weather gets better, although I had my first one in a Rainy, November Lake District I can tell that this is going to be one of those quintessential Summer garden brews – even at 7% which is quite undetectable whilst drinking.

You can buy Hawkshead IPA in the UK at:

Hawkshead Shop (Out of Stock, 6 Bottles Minimum)

Amazon (In Stock at time of writing!)

Hippo Beers (In Stock at time of writing!)

EST. CALORIES: 210   ABV: 7%

Special – Travel: Beer and Food in Arizona

On the way back from the Grand Canyon, we stopped in Flagstaff. Whilst there’s actually quite a few breweries after you cross the train tracks, I’d heard a lot about Lumberyard and we were on a short schedule. There was also another reason, the fact they do amazing BBQ food. For the starter we got the Nachos, which came with a generous amount of delicious Guac, Salsa and Chicken that had been cooked in the smoker with Tequila marinade. These were probably the most delicious Nachos I’ve had. As for the beer, I grabbed their Big Rapid Imperial Red Ale. Ruby in colour with a good, medium head. On the nose there were nice piney hops with sweet malt in the background. The taste was much the same, a big hit of caramel from the malts and a little bit of burnt sugar with a piney hop hit. For the main course, I went for the Santa Fe burger with believe it or not – Baked Beans! However, these were done in the smoker, and had a distinctly smoky flavour that I really enjoyed. The burger was great, very fresh Sliced Avocado, green chilies, salsa verde and pepper jack cheese.

After this I got another beer exclusive to the brewery, their Imperial Porter with Vanilla Pods and Coffee Beans. This poured pitch black with a small tan head, lots of roasty notes and a touch of vanilla on the nose. On the palate, a bit initial Coffee hit with subtle Vanilla notes, finishing with the Roasty malts. A very nice brew indeed. On the way out, I picked up the taster pack of 4 cans, their Flagstaff IPA, Lumberyard Red Ale, Knotty Pine Pale Ale and Diamond Down Lager. Out of these cans, the Flagstaff IPA was the best and I’ll be reviewing it soon.

The next day we were back in Phoenix, and on our way to a brewery I’d been looking forward to visiting for a long time – Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Arizona Wilderness don’t bottle or can their beer but managed to be the best New Brewery in the world last year which is quite a feat!

I went for the I got a flight with the De Kofa Extra Belgian Pale ale, Gilbraltar Gose, the critically acclaimed Refuge IPA, Signal Mountain Stout and Woolsey Wit. These were all absolutely fantastic beers. The De Kofa Pale is the nearest Amber coloured one above, with a peppery, clove but nicely sweet aroma and flavour. A nice English style Spicy Bitter finish on this one. The Gibraltar Gose is the closest one in this picture, A big Sour Funk aroma, with Lemon Juice, Light Coriander and Sea Salt. On the palate, a hit of Coriander, Salt and an intense Sourness on the end. Excellent Gose that I really enjoyed. Next, was the Woolsey Wit (one in the middle) On the nose lots of Orange Peel, Coriander, Citrus, Oak soaked with White Wine. On the palate some intense sourness with some great Grapefruit, Orange and Herbal characters. Next was the Refuge IPA. This one is incredible and I really thought it was going to be my favourite of the night, on the Palate and Nose loads of Resinous Pine and Citrus with great sweet notes of Ripe Apricots and Caramel. For a bold American IPA this went down so smoothly. Finally, my favourite of the night – the Signal Mountain Milk Stout. On the nose Milk chocolate milkshake and caramel notes. Big Milk chocolate and caramel hits on the palate to start followed by a surprising fruity element in the middle. The Vanilla and Lactose Sugar comes out at the end as well as the Nitro body, bringing that nice Milkshake character to this beer.

It was time for a bit of food for us, and a couple more of the Signal Mountains, Refuge and Gibraltar Gose. Chicken Patty, Red Pepper Salsa, Sauteed Rocket, smoked gouda, Avocado on a Brioche bun and a lot of Hot  Sauce! This was served with Brewery-Cut fries, cooked in Duck Fat and sprinkled with Rosemary and Sea salt. Both of these were absolutely delicious and I can’t really fault the Beer or Food here. Unfortunately, it was time for us to leave.

The next, and final day we decided to walk 5 minutes from our Hotel to the Scottsdale Beer Company for some food and to try their beers.

I went for the Kettle Monster Double IPA, Old Town Hoppy Brown, Texas Tea Double Chocolate Imperial Stout, Uncle Rico’s Red Ale and Orangedale Wheat Ale. The Kettle Monster was a great IPA, tonnes of resinous Pine on the nose and big Citrus hits on the Palate. Very bitter, but in a great way! The Old Town Hoppy Brown was very Toffee and Caramel orientated on the nose, but when you tasted it the Citrus hops soared above the Toffee and Caramel backbone. Different for a Brown Ale, but very welcoming! Next was the Texas Tea, the aroma had huge Chocolate and Roasty notes. When you taste it, it offers nice silky Chocolate to begin with, going towards Roasty malt and a little Coffee on the finish. The Uncle Rico’s was a very well balanced Red Ale with nice Caramel hits with a little resinous Pine in the background. Finally, the Orangedale Wheat Ale, this one’s definitely a warm Weather beer! Pilsner style aromas, with some Orange Peel and Clove on the Palate. Very light bodied and would be perfect for those hot summers in Arizona. As I’d had quite a bit of lovely Southwestern Food during the day, I had the Chicken Chop Salad. Chicken, Black Beans, Corn, Avocado, Tomatoes, Spring Onion, Cucumber, Red Bell Peppers, Queso Fresco and Coriander-Lime Vinaigrette. This was such a fresh, tasty Salad and very nice on a warm evening.

My trip to America was over, I visited some great breweries and had some amazing beers. Every Brewery does absolutely incredible food, and I think that’s really helping the Craft Beer boom there.

Until next year, where I’ll be visiting San Diego for a much longer time!

Milk Stout With Chocolate and Peppermint – American: Twisted Manzanita Enlightenmint

This weeks beer is something I enjoyed thoroughly in San Diego, and was one of the highlights of the trip. Twisted Manzanita Enlightenmint – A Milk Stout with Chocolate and Peppermint. I enjoyed this beer in their Pacific Beach Taproom, a must visit and something I included in my post earlier in the week.

Let’s start with Twisted Manzanita‘s description of the beer:

– Memorable like your favorite holiday treats; Big chocolate with a peppermint burst.
– Flaked barley gives it a creamy, robust body that supports the delicate flavors to the finish.
– Full-bodied and dark as night for maximum enjoyment on a winter evening.

Short but sweet description, which I’m always a big fan of. There’s hints at the flavour, and even the recipe which is always good, but then the real tasting notes are left up to the drinker – which I always find enables you to enjoy the beer more. Although it’s suggested that it’s enjoyed in winter, I had this beer on a warm evening in San Diego and have no regrets!

As for the recipe, let’s start with the malts and fermantables. 2-Row, Crystal 60, Special B and Chocolate Malts are used, with Flaked Barley as a fermentable to add a little body and make it a bit creamier. The hops are Kent Goldings or Mt Hood, as they don’t take a front seat in the brew. Cocoa and Peppermint are added during the boil and Peppermint and Lactose (Milk Sugar) are added during Primary Fermentation. Essentially, this beer is Dry-Minted!

This beer pours Pitch Black with a good sized Tan Head that retains well, leaving a little bit of spotty lacing. On the nose there’s a huge hit of what I can describe as Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate notes, even more Peppermint, Caramel and Cocoa Powder. When you taste this beer, it’s incredible how much the Mint has worked it’s way into the flavour, lots of Peppermint, Cocoa Powder, Chocolate Ice Cream, a little bit of Nut and finishes with some more Sweet Peppermint. This beer grows on you even more as you drink, you can’t tell it’s 8% at all. This beer has a good, creamy sticky body and finishes medium with a touch of bitterness. I’m definitely going to be bringing back more than one bottle of this next time I visit!

Currently, the best way to get this beer is by stocking up on a visit or if you have friends in California, ask them to send you some of this lovely stuff! I’ll definitely be trying to get my fair share!

EST. CALORIES: 240   ABV: 8%

Special – Travel: Beer and Food in Southern California Pt. 2

After trying more than my fair share of Beers at Stone the night before, it was time to go to Ballast Point Taproom and Kitchen at India Street, San Diego. Everyone told me that this is the best of the Ballast Point Taprooms, so I chose this to sample some of their beers and get some grub to line the stomach from the day before! The Taproom and Kitchen do fantastic food, we shared some Crispy Duck Nachos (Blue Cheese Sauce, Duck Confit, Pickled Onion, Arugula (Rocket) and Port Reduction) and as I was in San Diego, I went for the Fish Tacos. Both dishes were absolutely delicious, and very reasonable. As we had to drive back to LA (luckily I wasn’t doing the driving) later on in the day, I decided to try as many beers as possible before we had to go.

I started with a Sculpin IPA, the classic Ballast Point brew, which in my opinion is the IPA it’s hyped up to be and then moved on to a flight of Grapefruit Sculpin, Habanero Sculpin and the Black Marlin Porter. The Grapefruit Sculpin is coming up in my reviews next month but is a truly a World Class beer. The Habanero Sculpin was interesting, as I’m a self confessed Chilli Head I had to try it and I absolutely loved it. The nose is full of Citrus Fruit, Orange Peel and some resinous Pine in the background. On the Palate, there’s a nice initial Citrus and Pine from the hops with the Habanero building in the background. The Chilli isn’t for the weak hearted, but is a nice burn that builds as you drink. The Black Marlin was an equally good Porter, with Big Roasty notes on the nose with Raisins, Stone Fruits and a touch of Citrus on the finish. On the palate, a big Roasty Chocolatey note, with Caramel and Brown Sugar. Fantastic Mouthfeel on this one. Next up, I had a Ginger Big Eye IPA and the Sour Wench Berliner Weiss with Apricot and Peach. On the Nose the Sour Wench has a huge Apricot and Peach Aroma, with a little bit of woodiness from the stones of the Fruit and that familiar funky wheat and Lactobacillus Sour odor. This one is very tart to start off with, followed by the Sour Peach. Apricot lingers on the finish. As for the Ginger Big Eye – where do I start? Big Eye IPA is just as legendary as Sculpin. On the nose there was a big Ginger hit, with Grapefruit, Citrus and a little Soapiness. Although this has a huge hit from the Citrus, Grapefruit and Pine from the Hops, the Ginger is very prominent and compliments the Fruitiness from the Hops.

After this, we headed down to Pacific Beach to visit a smaller Brewerys Taproom – Twisted Manzanita. I got a flight here as time was running by and tried the Gillespie Brown (Brown Ale), Hot Chocolate (Chocolate Stout with Ancho and Habanaro Chillis), Rustic Horizon (Red Ale), Prospect Pale (Pale Ale) Iron Mountain (IPA), Enlightenmint (Milk Stout with Peppermint). I started with the Brown Ale, it pours with a Small Head but with great lacing. On the nose some Pine Nuts and Roasted Malts, when you taste it, it’s warm and boozy with Rasins, Piney Hops and a touch of Chocolate. Apart from the Enlightenmint, which I’ll be posting about on Friday, the Hot Chocolate was my favourite. It’s black as night with a tan coloured ring around the glass. On the nose you get big Chocolate and Coffee aromas and the Chilli is hidden very well, very sweet. On the Palate is where the Chilli comes into play, first a nice smooth Chocolate note that carries all the way through, then the Chilli kick, lots of Citrusy and Hot Spicy notes. Finishes smooth and spicy. The Rustic Horizon was a standard, well balanced Red Ale with Big Pine Notes and a nice Caramel Malt Backbone, The Prospect Pale was very well balanced also, with big Citrus aromas and a bready Malt Backbone. I’ll be Posting about the Enlightenmint on Friday, as it was probably my favourite of the entire San Diego trip!

I really liked Twisted Manzanita Taproom’s vibe, the staff were very friendly and knowledgeable and the decor was quite industrial and basic. The music in this place, and Ballast Point were the best of the entire trip. Although it was a short visit, it was time to leave San Diego.

The next day we made the long drive up to the Central Coast to Visit Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks in Buellton. Unfortunately due to the famous California Traffic, we missed our tour which was a shame. Luckily, Firestone Walker have a Taproom and Restaurant attached and we thought we’d take full advantage. By this time we were really hungry, and there was a table free for us straight away. I dived straight in with the Spicy Chicken Drumettes as an appertizer and a small measure of Velvet Merkin – a barrel aged version of their Velvet Merlin stout. Though I’d had it before when they came to visit in London, it really is a great beer and I wanted to try it fresh.  It’s Jet Black, and the Aroma was a little different. Lots of chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar, and toasted bread. The Palate had big brown Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Cocoa, Coffee, and Fig notes. There’s a distinct woody finish on this one. 

It was time to order the main course, and I went for the Sirloin Coulotte Steak with Shallot Butter, Fried Fingerling Potatoes and Chili-Lemon Broccolini and an Union Jack IPA. I must say again, that the food is truely delicious in this place and I really recommend having some if you visit. As for the Union Jack IPA, it was just as good as I remember. On the nose there was lots of Earthy Pine, Grapefruit, Citrus and a touch of sweet malt. The taste really is what makes this beer, some Pine Sap, Citrus, Grapefruit, Tropical Fruits with a great Malt Backbone riding throughout. What an IPA. I decided to skip dessert and go for an Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale and a Velvet Merlin on Nitro next.

The Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale was interesting, the fact it’s unfiltered really changes the aroma of this. Loads of Oak on the nose with Nutty Malt and a little bit of Vanilla Spice coming through. It tastes a little different too with big hits of Vanilla and Oak as well as the lovely Pale Malt backbone and fresh Bread Dough notes. What a great, simple beer! Next up was the Velvet Merlin on Nitro, I’ll start unusually by commenting on the Mouthfeel. The Nitro really improves this beer! The mouthfeel was like a Guiness, but this has way more flavour and aroma. On the nose there’s Roasty Coffee, Chocolate and a Milky Sweetness. The Palate is a tiny bit tart and dry, but with big hits of Milk Sweetness, Coffee and Chocolate. What a great way to end. After this I popped into the Barrelworks shop and picked up a bottle of the well known Parabola, which I’ll be reviewing in the future after it ages a little while!

Last, but definitely not least, we visited the Libertine Brewpub in Morro Bay which was Excellent. Unfortunately I was driving, but still managed to taste one of their Sours along with two other very good beers. I started with the Libertine Framboise, a beer I’d wanted to try for a long time. The Sours Libertine make are famous, if not notorious with people that have tried them! On the Nose a lot of Belgian funk and Sour Strawberry, the taste was great. If you haven’t tried a Sour, I wouldn’t recommend this as the first one, but it is delicious. Lots of Sour Strawberry and Funky Lacto notes with a great Wheaty backbone throughout. A great beer, I witnessed someone else try it and pucker. The Barman pointed at the sign above the Bar – “Ya, We Know It’s Sour.”

Next up, we decided to share a small measure of the Lost Abbey 10 Commandments – As you can see above, it’s got Honey, Raisins and Rosemary. Lost Abbey make Belgian inspired beers, and this one is a 12% Dark Strong Ale. It pours Jet Black, on the nose Chocolate, Molasses, Ginger, Honey, Coriander, Light Coffee and Nutmeg. The Flavour on this one is so complex, Raisin, Caramel, Gingerbread, Thyme, Molasses, Pink Peppercorn, some toasted Rosemary notes and a touch of Anise.

Finally, we shared a Firestone Walker Wookey Jack, a Black IPA I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Partly because of the name, and partly because Firestone’s IPA’s and Maltier offerings are great and I was interested on how they’d do a Black IPA. It pours Jet Black with a Tan Head, on the Nose plenty of Roasty Notes with Pine and Citrus coming from the Hops. They must’ve put a lot of Hops in this one, because they really cut through! There’s also some traces of dark fruits. The Palate on this one is lovely, it starts with a big Roasted Malt kick and as it fades into the background the Clean Citrus tones from the Hops come through, building up to a Roasty, Bitter finish. What a great beer!

That’s it for California. I had a great time. The vibe in all the beer-centric places I went were amazing, the food’s great even if you’re trying to eat healthily and great Beer is everywhere. Join me next week for my adventures in Arizona. Sorry this post was late, we had some Computer trouble!